Day 7: June 29, 2000
Asheville, NC to Harrisonburg, VA
(457 miles)

THIS is what it’s all about. Today’s ride was worth all of the rain, expense, traffic, danger, and adversity of this entire trip. MORE than worth it to be able to ride these roads and see these sights. I rode 457 miles today, saw a total of 3 traffic lights (all were green for me), no police, and no 18 wheelers. I counted corners for a couple of miles, and at an average of about 8 turns per mile, I experienced over 3,000 of the most beautiful constant radius bends that anybody could ask for. The Blue Ridge Parkway was built as a touring road, as opposed to a lot of mountain roads which are paved-over trails and cow paths, so the road surface is smooth, the corners never surprise, and for hour after hour, it’s left, right, left, right, and it just doesn't get any better than this. 3,000 corners, and no two are exactly the same. Some are high-speed sweepers, and others have to be taken in first gear. OK, it could be better if the speed limit was a little higher, but I didn't pay much attention to it anyway, so I’ll take it just the way it was, and I wish I could find the words to explain how cool it was.

I have always felt that riding a motorcycle on a twisty road is like a real-life video game. The face shield on your helmet is the video screen, your hands, feet, and entire body is the game controller, and the stakes are very real and very high. Screw up, and at best you’re in the weeds and your trip is ruined, at worst, and you’re dead. Every corner is a little challenge: would there be a deer (there were 3), would there be gravel on the roadway (only a few times), or would there be some other challenge? The adrenaline rush that comes from doing the best you can, given the conditions that are presented, is amazing. I’m sure that some of my friends could have ridden this road faster and better than I did today, but they weren’t here, and I was. And they’re jealous.

The Blue Ridge Parkway seems like 2 roads to me: the older southern part in North Carolina, which is a little more scenic, and the newer northern part in Virginia, which goes mostly through the trees, but is a much better road. I left Asheville in a steady rain, which continued for several hours, but by the end of the day all that was forgotten as I was in motorcycle heaven. In the morning, I took a couple of pictures which I'm sure will show lots of rain and fog, but believe me, the views are fantastic. The trees are such a bright color of green, when the sun came out, you needed sunglasses just to look at them. A wild turkey presented itself on one corner, and strutted out of the way as I passed. A groundhog or beaver waddled out of the way in another corner.

I have been on the road for a week, and this was the best day so far. It didn’t start out so well, as it was raining quite heavily as I pulled out of the motel at 9:00 AM. The temperature was in the high 50’s, and I was wearing most of the clothes I have with me. But, that’s a part of the challenge of this cross-country sport-touring, you have to deal with whatever conditions you find. Just a quick plug here for Honda: the ST1100 is an amazing machine. In a parking lot, it feels like it weighs a ton, but on roads like this it feels as nimble as the best sport bike, at least it does to me. The added security of anti-lock brakes is a big plus for me, knowing that if danger presents itself, the ABS will prevent me from locking up the brakes.

In the afternoon, after the sun came out, a late model Corvette and another motorcycle (I never saw what it was) followed me for about 50 miles. I guess I was going fast enough, because they never tried to pass, rather they stayed back a respectful distance, and we 3 all did the left-right-left-right mountain road dance. I usually don’t like to lead, but today I was really feeling it, and it was great. I’ll stop trying to describe the indescribable, but first let me say this: At some point in their life, everyone should have the experience of riding a capable motorcycle down a twisty road at considerable speed. There’s nothing like it, it is the most fun you can have with your clothes on.

When you get to the northern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway, there is a bonus waiting, and it is called Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park. At the park entrance, I signed up for the annual pass for the National Parks, and proceeded to continue the riding experience for another 40 miles of Skyline Drive until I had to turn off for another night at Motel 6. The road surface in the park was not as good as on the Parkway, but the road was every bit as good. From the waves and thumbs up signs I got from the oncoming motorcyclists, I knew I was not the only person enjoying this day in motorcycle paradise.

Tonight I was more exhausted than at any time since I left San Diego. I puzzled over this, until I realized the night and day difference between this type of riding and the long distance endurance riding that I did for the first two days of this trip. Endurance riding is great, but for me, the reason to do it is to allow me to get to a place like this and have a day like today. Ah, the Scooter Trash life, riding around the country and staying in cheap motels. It just doesn’t get any better than this.

Good Night.

Rick Brookes
ST1100, VFR750F, Hawk NT650GT
1998: 50cc Quest
1999: Bun Burner Gold
Summer 2000: BBG 3000, Four Corners Tour

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